So since the end of January hove into view and the tumult of rain ebbed to mizzle I’ve begun making small tours of the garden to see what has survived, what has disappeared and what has reached up to the surface of the soil to make a cautious start into growth.
In the depths of this winter I’ve taken to curling up by the fire and dipping into my new gardening book-‘Down to Earth’ by Monty Don, which makes me feel both woefully inadequate and also inspired to try new ideas and plants in our modest piece of land.
In addition to all these garden ponderings we’ve made a visit to wonderful Mottisfont House, near Romsey in Hampshire, where, even in the depths of winter the gardens are spectacular.
Swathes of delicate snowdrops are draped around trees and along the banks of The Test river and in the wonderful winter garden the bare coloured branches of shrubs are just beautiful. On our own plot the 300 snowdrop plants I spent several hours planting last year have rewarded me with 5 lonely flowers. Heaven only knows what became of the other 295-but squirrels may be the culprits [about which, more later].
Vibrant drifts of cyclamen have been planted around the bases of shrubs and trees.
At least these hardy, winter flowers have taken hold in our garden, having been transferred from winter pots onto the dastardly, dry shade bank.
Mottisfont’s walled gardens [three of them] are vast and while bare at this time of year are still a pleasure to stroll around. Then there is a circle of trees with an interesting sound installation.
Inside the old house the top two floors are hosting a cartoon exhibition, with original gems from the likes of Ronald Searle, Thelwell and Heath Robinson. All the exhibits are for sale, and while I’d really like a Heath Robinson they are pricey.
In the second hand bookshop, next to the ‘Stables’ café there are two shelves of gardening books, which are tempting, until I remember that, as with everything else, Plants, theory and advice goes out of date. It used to be the thing to dig over your flower and vegetable beds to keep the soil weed and clump free. Nowadays we are to leave it to the worms to sort out. But having toured Mottisfont’s gardens I realise I should be mulching as if my life depended on it.
As for squirrels-they are out of favour here at the Schloss, having eaten their way through our roof lead until the rain has poured through. They must now be trapped and decanted to new territories and the repairs must be done. Such is life. No such difficulties at Mottisfont…